Alibaba unveils Hanguang 800, its first AI interface chip and a potentially huge gamechanger

Alibaba has unveiled its first AI interface chip, the Hanguang 800, and it's being lauded as a boon to e-commerce, boosting capabilities for search, recommendation, and customer service.

The Hanguang 800 is a neural processing unit specialising in the acceleration of machine learning tasks. Currently, it's being used internally within Alibaba’s business operations, especially in product searches and automatic translation on e-commerce sites. It's also working on tasks related to personalised recommendations, advertising, and intelligent customer services, as these areas require extensive computing power for AI's to optimise shopping experiences.

The Hanguang 800 was developed by T-Head, the unit in charge of developing cloud and computing chips within the Alibaba DAMO Academy, the company's initiative to lead technological development and scientific research.

“The launch of Hanguang 800 is an important step in our pursuit of next-generation technologies, boosting computing capabilities that will drive both our current and emerging businesses while improving energy efficiency,” said Jeff Zhang, CTO of Alibaba Group and president of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence.

Alibaba said that by using the Hanguang 800, Alibaba’s e-commerce arm Taobao can categorise one billion product images in five minutes before making tailored searches and personalised recommendations to customers.

“In the near future, we plan to empower our clients by providing access through our cloud business to the advanced computing that is made possible by the chip, anytime and anywhere," he added.